As many as five people, including two sub-leaders of the Abu Sayyaf, were killed in the air strike and clashes in Indanan, Sulu, on Sunday, a military spokesman said.
Among those confirmed killed were Abu Sayyaf sub-leaders Ben Wagas and Apo Mike, Lt. Col. Randolph Cabangbang, Armed Forces Western Mindanao Command spokesman, said in a text message to reporters Monday afternoon.
Wagas and Apo Mike’s bodies were recovered along with that of Abu Sayyaf member Abu Abad on Monday, Cabangbang said.
“They were the three that were first reported killed in the air strike,” he said in a phone interview.
Meanwhile, the regional military spokesman said the Sulu Island Command reported that Sali Madarang and a certain Andag, both Abu Sayyaf members, also got killed in the operation.
“Hindi pa narerecover yung bodies nila (Madarang and Andag) pero isinama na sa count ng Sulu Island Command because the information came from reliable soruces,” Cabangbang said.
In an earlier interview, Cabangbang said government forces are still scouring the hinterlands of Sulu, as there was still no information on what happened to the “high-value” Abu Sayyaf and Jemaah Islamiyah (JI) personalities targeted by the air strike in Brgy. Karawan.
The military said it specifically targeted an area in the remote upland barangay because it is believed to be the “harboring site” of Abu Sayyaf leader Umbra Jumdail alias Dr. Abu.
Jumdail reportedly has about 24 followers in the area and leads them along with JI operatives Marwan, a Malaysian, and Mauwiyah, a Singaporean.
Three OV-10 planes from Zamboanga City dropped four bombs in the area starting 6:30 a.m. while four teams of soldiers were “inserted” via helicopters around 7 a.m., a military report said.
Chief Supt. Bienvenido Latag, Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao police director, said it is possible that other members of the Abu Sayyaf were killed or injured in the assault.
“Kasi ‘pag bakbakan na ganyan pinipilit talaga ng kalaban na isalba, hilahin ‘yung bangkay (ng mga kasamahan nila),” the police official said, citing his previous experiences in Brgy. Karawan.
“During that time hindi natin malaman kung ilan ang kalaban, though kini-claim ng operatives na medyo marami,” Latag added.
Cabangbang said there were no reports that civilians were displaced because of the bombing run.
“Isolated siya at saka identified talaga na Abu Sayyaf lair siya… remote at walang community doon,” he explained. (John Roson)
– end –